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Home > News & events > News > New research highlights the effectiveness of immune therapies for type 1 diabetes
In a research paper published in the Lancet journal, an international team of researchers combined data from 21 clinical trials of immune therapies, or immunotherapies, which revealed the incredible potential of immunotherapy to treat people newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
Clinical trials have demonstrated that immunotherapies can interfere with the destruction of insulin-producing cells, called beta cells. Preserving beta cells allows people developing type 1 diabetes to keep making their own insulin for longer. If people with type 1 can produce even a small amount of insulin, their type 1 may be considerably easier to manage, a phenomenon known as the honeymoon phase.
The research group includes leading immunologists from JDRF, Cardiff University, Critical Path Institute, University of Alberta, Colorado University and the pharmaceutical industry including JDRF-funded researcher Professor Colin Dayan. Professor Colin Dayan from Cardiff University said: “This research supports the role of immunotherapy, focusing on preventing the autoimmune destruction of insulin producing cells, rather than simply relying on insulin to treat the resulting insulin deficiency. Potentially screening programs could detect people at high risk of type 1 diabetes, and these treatments could be used even earlier with the ultimate aim of preventing childhood type 1 diabetes.”
Currently, immune therapies can delay the onset of type 1 diabetes and the need for insulin treatment. This delay is crucial to limit the prevalence of type 1 in childhood, where the condition can be more challenging to manage due to the hormones involved in puberty. Giving children their childhood back is an exciting possibility thanks to immunotherapy drugs. Combining immune therapies and fine-tuning the drugs offers hope that we could one day halt the immune attack completely.
C-peptide (short for connecting peptide) is needed to make insulin. Beta cells release C-peptide with insulin in equal amounts, but insulin is used quickly so it is difficult to measure. Measuring the amount of C-peptide in a blood sample is an accurate measure of how much insulin beta cells are releasing.
This new research established the importance of C-peptide as a biological marker of type 1. This offers an effective tool to measure the success of clinical trials and understand how well people are managing their type 1.
The research heralds a new era of type 1 diabetes treatment. We must now help get these powerful drugs into the hands of people who can benefit from them. Joint first author Dr Kimberly Collins, joint lead researcher from the Critical Path Institute said: “The data and analysis performed in this exciting project have provided the basis for an invaluable clinical trial simulation tool to promote faster and more efficient clinical trials in this space.”
The new JDRF-funded clinical trial called SOPHIST will test a drug to help people with type 1 diabetes and heart failure.
Results from a clinical trial called the PROTECT study show that teplizumab can preserve beta cell function in children and adolescents newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
Children in Northern Ireland are now eligible for a trial screening programme that will identify those at high risk of developing type 1 diabetes in the future.
Immunotherapy, beta cell replacement, smart insulins – we’re driving research in the most promising areas to find cures and better treatments for type 1 diabetes.